WHY THE NFL RULES: TWO MORE EPIC  PLAYOFF GAMES


BRADY MAKES THE PATRIOTS THE TEAM TO BEAT


PEYTON MANNING, AARON RODGERS CAME UP SHORT


ANDRE REED A HALL OF FAME LONG SHOT


ORANGE NOT LIKELY TO UPSET LOUISVILLE


Not every American is a fan of the NFL.


I feel sorry for those who aren’t.


The two latest examples of why the NFL is by far the most-popular sport in our nation’s history (sorry sports fans around the world, you don’t know what you’re missing; sorry baseball and NBA fans, you’re in denial):


Baltimore 38, Denver 35 in double overtime Saturday.


Atlanta 30, Seattle 28 on Sunday.


And the winners of those two epic games will be underdogs in this Sunday’s conference championship games:


NFC – Atlanta is a 3 ½-point underdog at home to San Francisco


AFC – Baltimore is a 9-point underdog at New England.


Why are the Patriots the favorite to win Super Bowl XLVII? The main reason is Tom Brady, the last of the Big Three quarterbacks left standing.


My “best quarterbacks win the biggest games” theory whiffed last Saturday: Peyton Manning (Denver Broncos) was upset at home , 38-35 in double overtime, by 9 ½-point underdog Joe Flacco (Baltimore Ravens)…and Colin Kaepernick (San Francisco 49ers) outplayed visiting Aaron Rodgers (Green Bay Packers) 45-31.


Flacco, who some NFL observers say has the strongest arm in the NFL, delivered as advertised. His 70-yard TD pass to Jacoby Jones – on third-and-3, with no timeouts and 31 seconds left in regulation -- tied the game at 35-35.


The play will live in NFL history as one of the most improbable game-saving  plays. Denver defensive backs Tony Carter and Rahim Moore carelessly allowed Jones to get behind them and paid dearly for their blunder.


In overtime, Manning’s careless interception set up the game-winning field goal.


Retiring Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis provided much more than inspiration. He was all over the field and led Baltimore with 17 tackles.


Manning added to his reputation as an ordinary postseason quarterback. When you rate the all-time QBs, Manning’s 9-11 record in the postseason must be taken into account and weakens his case.


I believe Rodgers is the best QB in the NFL today, but Kaepernick stole the show. He beat the Packers with his arm (263 yards and 2 TD passes) and  legs (181 yards rushing and 2 TDs on 16 carries). 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh is looking like a genius for his decision to bench Alex Smith in favor of Kaepernick.


Hindsight is 20-20, but it is amazing that so many teams passed on Kaepernick in the 2011 college draft. The Buffalo Bills had plenty of company. Kaepernick was the 36th overall pick and the 6th QB picked, behind Cam Newton (No. 1),Jake Locker (8th), Blaine Gabbert (10th), Christian Ponder (12th) and Andy Dalton (35th).


Next to Kaepernick’s record-setting performance, the key to the game was Green Bay’s shabby rush defense. San Francisco had 43 carries for 323 yards (7.5-yard average) and dominated time of possession (38:01 to Green Bay’s 21:59).


On Sunday, Seattle was outclassed by Atlanta in the first half. Poor decisions and clock management contributed mightily to a 20-0 halftime deficit.


But rookie QB Russell Martin put on a show in the fourth quarter, rallying the Seahawks from down 27-7 with 2:11 left in the third quarter (ESPN Stats and Info gave Seattle a 1.4 percent chance to win at that point) to an improbable 28-27 lead with 31 seconds remaining.

Seattle coach Pete Carroll had a horrible day. One of his team’s worst moves was playing softer defense in the final 31 seconds. Matt Ryan completed two passes for 29 yards and 19 yards to get into long field-goal range. Matt Bryant missed right from 49 yards but it was merely practice as Carroll made his bad day worse by calling timeout to freeze Bryant just before his FG attempt. Bryant nailed his next try for the victory.


Atlanta coach Mike Smith and Ryan needed the victory to lift their tags as playoff chokers. Ryan now is 33-4 at home in he regular season and 1-3 at home in the playoffs.


Brady over Houston QB Matt Schaub clearly was the difference in Sunday’s late game, a 41-28 Patriots victory. It was Brady’s QB-record 17th postseason victory and his 41 postseason TD passes trail only Brett Favre (44) and his boyhood idol, Joe Montana (45).


New England lost star tight end Rob Gronkowski, who rebroke his left forearm in the game, but no team does a better job plugging in productive subs to replace injured stars.


Brady and coach Bill Belichick are 5-1 in AFC title games. Does anyone outside of Baltimore expect them not to be 6-1 by late Sunday night?
 

Latest Super Bowl XLVII Odds: AFC -3 over NFC; over/under 51.5 points.


New England Even


San Francisco 2x1


Atlanta 6x1


Baltimore 8x1.


ANDRE REED UP AGAINST IT FOR PRO FOOTBALL HALL OF FAME – AGAIN!


Former Buffalo Bills star Andre Reed is among the 15 modern-era finalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame – again. And he’s unlikely to be selected because fellow wide receivers Cris Carter and Tim Brown also are finalist – again.


As long as all three WRs are on the ballot, they figure to split support and fall short.


Ideally, the supporters of the three players would get together before the meeting the day before Super Bowl XLVII and decide to go to bat for ONE of the three players. Assuming that player were voted in, they’d combine efforts to make a case for one of the other WRs in the 2014 election and the other WR in 2015.


Here’s how three WRs measure up:


Carter – 234 games…1,101 catches…13,899 yards…80 TDs


Brown – 255 games…1,094 catches…14,934 yards…100 TDs


Reed – 234 games…951 catches…13,198 yards…87 yards…Reed deserves bonus points for having the best postseason numbers.


The 15 finalists: First-timers DE Michael Strahan , OT Jonathan Ogden, OL Larry Allen and DT Warren Sapp…holdovers RB Jerome Bettis, LB-DE Charles Haley and Kevin Greene, OG Will Shields, DB Aeneas Williams, coach Bill Parcells, owners Edward DeBartolo Jr. and Art Modell, Brown, Carter and Reed.


The two senior nominees are DT Curly Culp and LB Dave Robinson.


A minimum of 4 and maximum of 7 of the finalists will be elected.


 16-1 ORANGE NEED “A” GAME TO BEAT LOUISVILLE


Syracuse University’s basketball team is 16-1 (4-0 in the Big East) but would do well to split its next two games:  at Louisville Saturday and home against Cincinnati Monday, Jan. 21 (Martin Luther King Day), against Cincinnati, 3:30 p.m.


The Orange – with or without currently suspended James Southerland – would need to play their “A” game to upset Louisville. Even that might not be good enough. If Louisville is favored by less than 8 points I’ll be surprised.


Here is how SU has measured up against opponents so far this season:

Records – SU 16-1…opponents 1-16


Scoring – SU 79.0…opponents 57.8 (SU +21.2 per game)


Field –goal percentage – SU .456 (490x1075)…opponents .354 (335x945)


3-point FG percentage – SU .319 (103x323)…opponents .276 (103x373)


Free-throw percentage – SU .658 (260x395)…opponents .691 (210x304)


Rebounds – SU 734 (43.2 per game)…opponents 584 (34.4 per game)


Assists – SU 281 (16.5 per game)…opponents 215 (12.6 per game)


Turnovers – SU 229 (13.5 per game)…opponents 308 (18.1 per game)


Steals – SU 182 (10.7 per game)…opponents 127 (7.5 per game)


Blocks – SU 127 (7.5 per game)…opponents 62 (3.6 per game).


SU top scorers – Brandon Triche 14.1 points per game…C.J. Fair 13.8…James Southerland 13.6…Michael Carter-Williams 11.9 (9.4 assists per game)…Rakeem Christmas 6.9…DaJuan Coleman 5.7…Trevor Cooney 4.9.


Average home attendance – 19,803 (12 games).


CHECKING OUT THE LOCAL PRO TEAMS


The Rochester Americans are coming off a very impressive weekend – beat Hamilton 5-2 at home Friday and beat the loaded Syracuse Crunch 4-1 on the road Saturday.


The Amerks play at Binghamton Wednesday and host Syracuse Friday at 7:05 p.m. The Crunch will be ready after Saturday’s loss at home.


Rochester (19-14-2-1 record) is tied for 10th in the 30-team American Hockey League in points percentage (.569; 41 of 72 possible points in the standings). The Amerks have been pretty good at home (12-7-0-1; outscoring opponents 65-57) and highly respectable on the road (7-7-2; outscoring opponents 58-55).


Rochester continues to perform well on special teams: power play 2nd (22.0 percent; 36x164; 4 short-handed goals)…penalty killing 11th (84.6 percent; 137x162; 5 shorthanded goals for).


The National Lacrosse League Knighthawks (0-1 record) will play their home opener Saturday, 7:30 p.m., against the Buffalo Bandits. Casey Powell should be ready to make his K-hawks return. The Toronto Rock will be in town Saturday, Jan. 26.


The Lancers lost their sixth straight game last Saturday night, 15-14 at home to the Syracuse Silver Knights. The Lancers dropped to 5-10 and are last in the seven-team Major Indoor Soccer League.  They’ll play at the Wichita Wings Friday and at the Missouri Comets Saturday.


SEATTLE, PORTLAND, WNY SCORED BIG IN NWSL ALLOCATION


Here’s the breakdown of the 23 members of the U.S. women’s national soccer team who were distributed in the allocation for the National Women’s Soccer League’s inaugural season (7 teams received 3 American players; only Rochester received 2); each team also received 2 Canadians and 2 Mexicans):


Portland Thorns  – Alex Morgan, Tobin Heath and Rachel Buehler…also received Canadian superstar Christine Sinclair. They should be the league’s best 1-2 scoring punch


Seattle Reign FC – Amy Rodriguez, Megan Rapinoe and Hope Solo…a scorer, playmaker and the top goalie.


Western New York Flash – Abby Wambach and Carli Lloyd…Flash should be in line for one more player.


Boston Breakers – Sydnery Laroux, Heather Mitts and Heather O’Reilly…Three solid players, including a dynamic young goal scorer (Laroux)
Chicago Red Stars – Shannon Box, Amy LePeilbet and Keelin Winters


FC Kansas City – Nicole Barnhart, Lauren Cheney and Becky Sauerbrunn
Washington Spirit – Ashlyn Harris, Ali Kreiger, Lori Lindsey
SKY Blue FC – Jill Loyden, Kelly O’Hara and Christie Rampone.


OLDIE-BUT-GOODIE PARKER BOHN III WINS PBA CHAMPIONSHIP


Pro bowler Parker Bohn III has been around for so long that he was a player to beat when the PBA Tour made a regular stop in Rochester a long time ago. Marcel’s Olympic Bowl is gone but Bohn still is rolling along.


On Sunday, Bohn won the PBA World Championship in Las Vegas. It as his 33rd PBA Tour title but his first in more than four years.


He was the 24th of the 24 qualifiers for match play. He then qualified for the five-bowler stepladder TV finals by only 9 pins. Here’s how he fared in Sunday’s stepladder finals when most of us were watching the Seattle Seahawks vs. the Atlanta Falcons:


Defeated Dan MacLelland 254-227


Defeated Rhino Page 200-170


Defeated reigning PBA Player of the Year Sean Rush 278-231


Defeated top qualifier Jason Belmonte of Australia 254-227.


Unfortunately for Bohn, the prize money on the PBA Tour isn’t a whole lot better than it was 25 years ago. His heroics last week earned him a grand total of $50,000.


BUFFALO BANDITS WILL BRING 1-1 RECORD TO ROCHESTER


The Buffalo Bandits will be the opponent for the home opener Saturday for the National Lacrosse League defending champion Rochester Knighthawks Saturday, 7:30 p.m., at Blue Cross Arena at the Community War Memorial.


The Bandits won 13-12 over the Minnesota Swarm in their home opener last Saturday night before 15,238 fans at First Niagara Center. Former Knighthawks star Sean Williams had 1 goal and 3 assists for Buffalo…The Bandits are 1-1. They lost 13-8 to the host Philadelphia Wings before 9,096 fans last Friday night.


The Washington Stealth, 13-12 winners over visiting Rochester in the NLL’s opening game Jan. 5, are 2-0. They won 17-13 last Saturday at Colorado before 13,148 fans. Former Knighthawks superstar John Grant had 3 goals and 3 assists for the Mammoth.


SHORT SHOTS


In an interview with Oprah Winfrey on Monday, to be televised Thursday night, disgraced Lance Armstrong reportedly will finally admit to using performance drugs during his cycling career. I hope he realizes that many of us have long been much more upset about his lying than we were about him cheating on the ridiculouslydirty pro cycling tour.
Not to belabor the fact that the quarterback-needy Buffalo Bills passed on chances to draft weekend QB heroes Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson, but I hope the Bills brass realizes the folly of having a relatively immobile starting QB . Statues are out.


If New England reaches Super Bowl XLVII, win or lose, I’m finding it more and more difficult to rank New England’s Tom Brady behind Joe Montana or anyone else on the all-time QB list.


If it weren’t for Serena Williams, I wonder how many American non-tennis sports fans would have any interest in the Australian Open.
I wonder would’ve been on Duke losing Saturday plus Michigan losing Sunday. There are no undefeated major college basketball teams left this season.


I wonder where senior guard John DiBartolomeo ranks among the all-time great University of Rochester basketball players.